New Yorkers, charge up your cellphones!

This week, more than 90 heads of state and their entourages will descend on the city for the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly. Undoubtedly, there is serious business afoot on the East River. But if tradition holds, another sort of serious business will be unfolding at the city’s luxury boutiques and department stores, as corrupt officials indulge their urge to splurge.

It’s time to call out the kleptocrats!

Every year, more than $1.26 trillion dollars disappears from the coffers of developing nations through graft and corruption, according the Global Financial Integrity Project. In nation after nation, that money–which could go to build schools, roads or hospitals, which could improve sanitation that would benefit all citizens–instead goes to support an outrageously lavish lifestyle for a small coterie at the top of the privilege pyramid.

If you happen to see a foreign dignitary or spouse cruising the high-end restaurants and stores this week, whether biggies or boutiques, pull out your cell phone. Take a picture if you can. Post pix to Flickr and videos to YouTube, using the tag “kleptowatch.” Make sure to note the date, time, place and, if possible, the identity of the subject, along with your own name and any other relevant details.

Can’t take a picture? Tweet a sighting, do so right away, and perhaps others can catch the shot. Use the hashtag “#kleptowatch” so everyone can track tweets in real time. (We’ll assume use of our tags means it’s okay to post your photos and tweets on our sites, unless you let us know otherwise.)

We’ll be posting a few pictures of who’s expected and why they’re worth watching, just to get you started.

When in doubt: Shoot first. We’ll sort out the rest.

At week’s end–earlier, if we reach critical mass–we’ll curate the photos at 100r.org and at SaharaReporters.com. Stop by, and see what caring can do.

Tweet or e-mail us at KleptoWatch@100r.org, just to let us know you’re on board.

Happy hunting!

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo is co-founding executive editor of 100Reporters and an award-winning former foreign, national and cultural correspondent for The New York Times and the Baltimore Sun.
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